Date: 14th September 2018 at 1:46pm
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Today, Aberdeen became the first club since Celtic to break ranks with the “acceptable silence” and go after the SFA for perceived bias. They have put it diplomatically, but the statement they’ve released calls for an open and transparent process that “would enhance the games integrity” so there is little doubt what they are saying.

The statement is correct in everything it says.

Describing recent decisions as “perplexing”, it also suggests that many other clubs feel the same way. Crucially, the statement is not merely concerned with getting the SFA to focus on changing its culture, but it invokes the spectre of the SPFL deciding to the issue out of their hands entirely.

People at the SFA tend to forget that the game is about the clubs, and a lot of the clubs are sick and tired of seeing the rules applied so unfairly. You get the impression that the scandalous way the governing body’s discipline committee is behaving has resulted in a tipping point.

The nature of the biases are now so undisguised that many have had enough.

And I understand the imperative to seek answers, because clubs now know that any one of them could be next. The double standard is so shockingly clear that they are no longer willing to tolerate it. Kilmarnock must be especially enraged; as yet they have said nothing about the charges against Clarke.

But we’ll see if those charges stand up.

Aberdeen’s statement comes just a day after Derek McInnes added his own voice to the growing chorus of anger. The club may just be getting its digs in first before an SFA summons lands on their door in relation to what McInnes said, but this feels like something more.

Their statement seems genuinely angry to me, and so this isn’t simple posturing.

This seems like a critical moment for all involved, and I suspect that the twin decisions to allow McGregor to get off scott-free and the one to charge Clarke have brought it home to a lot of people just how one-sided this all is.

Clubs who have lost players to suspension, some for very innocuous challenges, hear the SFA defend the McGregor and Morelos decisions with nonsense about red card offences having to be especially brutal, and know it stinks. Now managers cannot speak out about this without fear of sanction … except the manager of one particular club, who can allege that there’s bias not only in individual decisions but going back years.

Things cannot go on like this, and Maxwell himself seems caught in the headlights and is rushing to FIFA for clarity, apparently in an effort to confront his own officials with how ludicrous some of their decisions have been. If he thinks that’ll work, it won’t.

Aberdeen’s statement makes it clear that the reputation of the game here is at risk.

Again, there’s a certain amount of wishful thing in the notion that any of those involved behind the scenes will be particularly bothered by that.

It is ironic that Aberdeen seems to be mindful of such considerations too. It doesn’t seem to bother them that the greatest act of cheating in the history of British football has gone on in Scotland, and that its aftermath still stains the sport today … the reputation of this association was in the grubber long before this campaign started and Aberdeen have not been part of the solution as much as they’ve been part of the problem.

Their call for transparency only echoes the one we made over a year ago, and which their own club was the first out of the traps to dismiss.

Nevertheless, this does feeling like a point of critical mass. Clubs know that what’s gone on here is corrupt; they might not use the word, but they understand what it is that they’re watching unfold. That one of them has now broken ranks, and is hinting that they aren’t alone in wanting to see something done, is encouraging.

Perhaps we’re on the brink of a real change here. And perhaps not. The SFA has become adept at riding out controversies. Don’t be surprised if they batten down the hatches and opt for the same again. Don’t be surprised if they actually provoke an even greater conflict by citing McInnes and his club. They can do as they like.

They can throw citations around like confetti, in an attempt to intimidate people if they want, but it seems as if the dam has broken here. The more they struggle to justify the unjustifiable, or intimidate the clubs into silence, the worse the looks and the worse it will get.

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